Javier let out a shout of excitement with his hands in the air . He turned to hug Minjoon, who frowned and started tickling Javier . Javier let go with a pained face .
“Get permission from Kaya first . ”
“…Ugh, what a drag . ”
“What do you mean, a drag? You need to get permission from me if you have to hug Kaya as well . It’s a give and take thing, you know?”
“You don’t get permission for hugging Ella, though . ”
“Ella’s an exception . Kids get a free pass . ”
“What a strange set of rules . ” Javier complained . He immediately noticed Rachel looking at him, and took the plate away . Minjoon had to stop himself from reflexively bowing at her, and smiled instead .
“Thank you, teacher . ”
“No need . I was just giving a pass for good food . ”
“I’m happy that we could get a pass to begin with . Especially one with Javier . ”
Javier turned away with an embarrassed look . This was a meaningful moment for him in many ways . After all, this was the first time he was able to get recognition from Rachel . Of course, this did require Minjoon’s help, but that fact didn’t take away from his feeling of accomplishment at all .
The chefs in the kitchen could tell what happened as soon as the two walked out of the office .
“Grats . ” Anderson said .
“…How’d you know?”
“Anyone could tell if you smile like that . ”
Javier grinned ear-to-ear . It was obvious that he was incredibly happy right now . Javier turned to look at Janet, who flinched .
“What’re you looking at?” Janet asked .
“I’m not getting a congratulations from you?”
“You were late into the party and you want a congrats for that?”
“Well, I did end up doing it, so I deserve one, don’t I?”
“No . I’m not going to . ”
Janet stepped back with a wary look . Well, at least her response fit her personality . Minjoon looked at the demi chefs with a smile .
“Should we try making it?”
“What, the course menu?”
“We don’t have the fish prepped yet . Who’s gonna do that?”
“The one who mentioned this, obviously . ”
Anderson turned to look at Minjoon, who nodded .
“Sure . What’s up with all of you and disliking prepping?”
“…You’re the weird one for liking this sort of stuff . ”
Prepping fish was one of the few things that’s incredibly hard for anyone to like . It was sticky, it smelled, and one mistake could just ruin the fish . That kind of thing was no fun for anyone .
Not that Minjoon disliked that . Minjoon’s never had a moment in his like where he’s disliked prepping ingredients .
Which was why his hands on the fish was chock full of love and joy .
‘I’ll make you taste good . ’
They were incredibly cruel words for the fish, but it was also a pure, innocent desire of Minjoon’s . He wiped off the sticky residue on the surface of the fish .
What came after was the scaling . But as he was about to start, he found Justin coming over to speak to him .
“Chef, you should’ve told me . I could’ve done this…”
“You’re good . We’re just doing this for ourselves . This isn’t actual work, so we can’t have people like you involved . Plus, we can’t let our skills get rusty . So no worries . ”
Justin still looked pretty troubled, but Minjoon had no intention of letting the man take over . This was fun, why’d he let someone else do it?
Taking off the scales one by one felt good . Controlling his strength as he worked the fish felt fun . Others might call this work, but this was just a play to Minjoon .
‘They said hobbies don’t stay fun when they become work, didn’t they?’
Minjoon couldn’t relate . Cooking was fun . It made him happy . He liked it to the point where he’d be troubled if someone asked him if he liked cooking or Kaya more .
He took off most of the scales with the scaler, then took off the rest with the knife . He took off the gills and the tail to let the blood out . Maya turned away as he took out the innards with a grin .
“…He finds that sort of stuff fun? I’ve never had fun dismantling fish . ” Maya muttered to herself .
“Leave him be . You know how weird he is with cooking . ” Justin answered .
“I wonder if we can grow like him if we take after him?”
“Probably not . You don’t see the other demi chefs following him, do you?”
“The other demi chefs trained for years, and chef Minjoon didn’t . He’s the youngest one out of them, isn’t he?”
“Is he the youngest?”
“Well, he did say he was in his early twenties . ”
Maya shrugged . Justin muttered to himself in a daze without even looking at the demi chefs .
“In any case, his knife skills are fantastic . How’d he get that good at such a young age?”
He was honest . The angle Minjoon put the knife when cutting out the gills, and his smooth movement looked incredibly skilled . Maya nodded in agreement .
“It’s pretty amazing, yeah . As far as I know, stuff like that grows during your probation period, but chef Minjoon didn’t go through any of that . Can you even get that good cooking at home?”
“It’s gotta be talent, there’s no explaining it . ”
“It’s not talent . ”
Raphael butted into the conversation . He looked at the surprised chefs around him calmly .
“It’s difficult to get that good with just talent . You need to get hurt prepping and whatnot to get a feel for what the knife really is like . And to be that good dismantling fish… He’s had to have done thousands to get that good . ”
“But chef Minjoon’s never worked in a restaurant, has he? There’s no way he’s gotten that good at home!“
“Who knows . Maybe he practiced with play-doh?”
The chefs all collectively imagined a scene of Minjoon cutting play-doh in a dimly lit room . As they all turned to look at him with eyes of pity, they noticed that the man’s hand has stopped . Right next to it was a massive fish filet .
“That looks quite good . ”
Janet immediately coated it with flour . They didn’t have to cook it now . What was important was preparing the ingredients to be served with it .
Minjoon took out the pickled persian cucumber . As he started stabbing flours into it, Janet put down the green curry and goat cheese sauce on the plate . The dish would be complete once they fried the surface of the fish and put it on . Just smelling the dish made Maya drool .
“That critic’s going to have one hell of a time . ”
The critic didn’t at all look nervous as he entered the restaurant . He looked confident . Maybe excited . He grinned as he stroked his fat chin .
“I’m honored that chef Rachel of all people would send out a challenge to me . ”
“Well, I did invite you, but I wouldn’t call it a challenge . ”
Rachel’s eyes drifted over to the man next to Jasper as he said this . The man was holding up a phone, filming the two . Jasper let out a laugh .
“Hahaha, this is my assistant . I just wanted to film this occasion . It’s pretty special, after all . ”
“We wouldn’t need the phone, then . ”
Jasper looked at Rachel with a curious face . Instead of responding, Rachel looked up . Jasper followed suit, and immediately paled . There were two men holding massive cameras one would use at a TV station .
“Hahaha… Amazing . Looks like the ones that come out on TV . ” Jasper sounded much more subdued than before .
“That’s because they are . ” Rachel responded .
Jasper’s face paled even more . Rachel continued casually .
“Two of my students are going to be filmed for something today . Something about an update after Grand Chef season 5 . The two rushed over after I told them about you . I guess they thought it’d be fun . ”
“I see . ”
Jasper gave himself a pat on the back for not stuttering . To think that he’d just land himself on a TV show just like that, all thanks to Rachel…
Rachel didn’t even allow Jasper time for thought . He wasn’t really a guest here, after all .
“Come, I’ll lead you to your seat . ”
“There’s no customers here? It’s lunch, isn’t it?”
It was supposed to be an attack of sorts, but Rachel just brushed it off .
“We aren’t doing lunch here anymore . It was stressing out the chefs far too much . I just feel sorry for giving them needless tasks all the time . ”
She didn’t even need to mention that one of the said “needless tasks” was this one . Jasper turned red with anger, but he wasn’t able to find any words to hit back with .
“Jasper, should I keep filming?”
“Shut it . Take the phone away . ”
Jasper answered with an embarrassed face and sat down . He put the napkin on his lap in one smooth movement . He pretended to look as relaxed as possible .
“A three course meal, correct?”
“Try to see if you can tell who made each dish . I’m curious if you can even tell . ”
Rachel grinned . Why did that grin look so cruel to him? Jasper cleared his throat nervously .
“Like I said, what matters more is the fact that some of the dishes weren’t made by you…”
“The food is here . ”
Two plates were put in front of him just like that . One of the dishes had thinly cut tofu floating in some sort of a stock, along with a pink sashimi, topped with caviar, tendon, and cilantro . The other plate had a massive piece of scallop topped with some sort of a jelly . The gears immediately started turning in Jasper’s head .
‘The sashimi dish doesn’t really have any fancy molecular gastronomy stuff applied to it… Is it by chef Rachel, then? Yeah, it’s not like she’d know a lot about it at her age . It has to be hers . So that jelly stuff must be by the demi chefs . How obvious,’
As soon as he put the dish in his mouth, he became even more sure . There was no way someone in his twenties would be able to make something so subtle and delicious . Jasper smiled confidently .
“This has to be yours!”
“The reason being?”
“There’s no way a demi chef… ah, no offense, can make something as subtle and deep as this . It tastes very interesting even without the help of molecular gastronomy . Only someone like you can be capable of that . ”
Rachel’s face stiffened, which made Jasper even more sure that he was right . He began talking even faster in excitement .
“This is why I said all dishes in the restaurant has to be made by you . Of course, the demi chefs can make good food, but they definitely can’t imitate something like this! Do you understand why I was playing the role of a villain now?”
“I don’t . ”
“Haha, of course you d… what?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about . ”
Rachel pointed at the dish .
“I didn’t make that . ”